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How to Choose an Online Bank – It is Easier Than You Think

How to Choose an Online Bank – It is Easier Than You Think

Choosing an online bank only requires the consideration of four things. You have to consider their fees, online security, customer support, and what you want from your bank in the future. If you can nail those features, you will be able to choose the most suitable online bank for you. There is so much choice these days that you can find a bank that is perfect for you without having to compromise on your demands.


How Do You Feel About Their Fees?


There are two sides to the argument when it comes to fees. The first is that if a bank has the features you want and/or the services you want, then you should be willing to pay for them if you cannot get them from another bank for less. The second is that you should pick a bank that has lower fees for the services you require.

For example, if you have numerous small amounts come into your account each month because you work for a cleaning company that pays weekly, and you earn a wage from a temp company that has you cleaning offices in the evening, then you want a bank that offers free transactions and no fees for deposits.

For example, you may live on your credit card through the month to build up reward points. At the end of the month you may use your checking account to pay the bill in full to help build your credit rating. If you do this, then you probably won’t mind fees for deposits or payments because you make so few. You may also opt for a bank that offers interest on your balance because you leave your money in there for so long.

For example, you may have to draw out money from ATMs frequently to pay for bus fare, to buy from markets, to give donations, to pay for taxis, and to buy your food from vending machines and your work canteen. You may prefer a High Street bank because the ATM near you has free withdrawals with that bank.

My Thoughts – There Is A Bank To Suit Your Every Need

There are so many options these days that you can really name your demands, and there is a bank out there that will give them to you. Figure out your priorities and examine your banking behavior before you make your choice. Start with High Street banks because they all have online options, and then move onto online-only banks if they suit you.

Handy Hint – Try Not To Write Your Passwords Digitally

If you trust an app, then write your passwords in there, but I have a very hard time trusting them. I don’t even trust Hootsuite with my social media passwords, which is why I don’t use it. If you write something digitally, then a hacker has a chance, albeit a tiny one, to see your password. After all, do you really know who made the app and what they are doing with your password information?

How Do You Feel About Their Security?

The bank’s security is a big issue, especially in an age where Chinese hacking groups are now self-sustaining because of the money they pull from the Internet. If a hacker or online thief is determined enough, then he or she is going to get into my accounts, but I am going to make it as difficult as possible for them.

Here are the steps you may take with one bank. This bank has a three-step procedure that is fairly common. Its aim is to make it difficult for hackers and people who are trying to steal your identity.

Bank 1 – First Step of Security With Security Number


You have to enter your customer number, which is better than having to enter your name or email address because they are easier to find out. It is harder to discover a person’s customer number for a specific bank, especially since the 9-number number doesn’t have identifiers that suggest what the number is for.

Bank 1 – Second Step of Security With Password

 Bank 1 - Second step of security with password

You have to pick a security password and then enter different characters for it. Picking your own password is great, and the fact you have to enter random numbers of it makes it more difficult for key logging software to figure out what your full password is.

Bank 1 – Third Step of Security With Secret Question

People who have tracked you for a long time may eventually discover the secret answers you have entered, but you can make it more difficult for identity thieves. Simply enter a strange password instead of a secret answer. Instead of entering your favorite film, write “WppsddygUU833U.”

Here is another bank. It has stronger security. For most people, the security offered by the first bank is perfect, but for some, the more security–the better.

Bank 2 – First Step of Security With Username

Bank 2 - First step of security with security number

The bank gives you a default username that starts with IB and has a string of digits. You are also able to pick your own username. If you do not give away your username, then both the default username (the random numbers) and/or your choice will make it more difficult for hackers to get a head start on cracking your account.

Bank 2 – Second Step of Security With Password

Bank 2 - Second step of security with password

This is just a password system. It is a second layer of security that isn’t particularly sophisticated. It is the bike lock of banking security, but it is better than nothing, and is yet another barrier for hackers and identity thieves.

Bank 2 – Third Step of Security With Pin Number

Bank 2 - Third step of security with pin number

You are given a secure key that is pin protected. You have to enter your pin, and it gives you a temporary code that you enter into the system. The code expires in 45 seconds, and the device turns itself off after 15 seconds. For a hacker or identity thief to be successful, they would need your username, your password, physical access to your secure key, the secure key pin, and the ability to enter the code within 45 seconds of it being generated. Having to gain physical access to your secure key makes life very difficult for hackers and identity thieves.

My Thoughts – The Higher The Security–The Better

I am a fan of higher security, even if it means more inconvenience. Bank two is a winner for me because an identity thief would need my secure key and its pin number to get a random code from the device. The random numbers also expire within 45 seconds, so I am very happy with its heightened level of security.

Handy Hint – Write Your Passwords In A File

We are always told not to write our passwords down, but we have so many accounts that it is impossible to remember them all, and it is annoying have to reset the password each time. Instead, buy a ring binder file, write your usernames and passwords down, and pop them in the file. I name my file “Utility bills” and place it on the shelf with my accounts folders. These days, I store it in one of my floor safes. Frankly, few criminals break into your house and start going through your files.

How Good Is Their Customer Support?

Customer support is something that we only really need when things are difficult and when things have changed. You are hardly likely to call your electricity supplier’s customer support line every weekend for a chat, but you may give them a call if your bank statement shows a strange charge from them.

There are not many instances where you should need customer support from your bank, but it is going to come up from time to time. It may be that you cannot transfer money from your account to your savings account via the transfer function, or you may not have received your rebate for using a local ATM. Whatever your reason, you have to expect to use your new bank’s customer service at least once per year.

If you have found a great bank, then have a quick look at their user reviews online before you make your final decision. Reviews such as the ones we write may mention the customer service department, but it is user-reviews that tend to show a clearer view of the customer service department.

It is not the fault of review websites such as ours that we give such an opaque review of company’s customer service departments. The truth is that most online reviewers have little contact with the customer service department of the companies they review. However, some of a bank’s customers may have spent hours talking to customer service, and they will know let you know what to expect. Obviously, if a lot of user reviews mention poor customer service, then it may be worth factoring it into your decision.

My Thoughts – Customer Service Matters If It Is Terrible

I didn’t used to think that customer service mattered until I had trouble with my Internet provider. After several conversations with their Indian-based customer service department, I finally had an engineer around to my house. He called the customer service department to escalate the problem, and the customer service advisor didn’t believe that he was an engineer and didn’t escalate the problem.

Frustrated internet user image

I had to do it all again and have the same engineer visit again and call the customer service department again to find a customer support individual who could escalate the problem and have the local transfer box looked at. My problem was fixed after that, but if I have another problem with my Internet, I will simply change providers rather than deal with their customer service department again.

Handy Hint – Stop Giving Away Your Secret Answers On Facebook

I can look through your Facebook right now and find your secret answers to your bank questions. I can find your mother’s maiden name, your first school, the name of your street, your partner’s name, the name of your dog, your favorite movie and more. Do what I do and give strings of characters and numbers as your answers and write them down in a file. It is less convenient, but far more secure.

What Services Will You Want From Your Online Bank In The Future?

Give a little consideration to the services you may want in the future if you are picking a bank and sticking with it. Do not worry yourself too much because you can always open up an account with another bank in the future if your current bank doesn’t have what you need.

For example, in the future, you may like to get a personal loan for a car and suitable GAP insurance. The bank you choose may have very low fees, but it may only offer small range of financial products that do not include large loans or insurance. You can give this some thought when you first pick your bank, or you may sign up for accounts with other banks when you need services that your current bank doesn’t offer.

My Thoughts – Building A Bank History Is Important

In the past, I have received benefit-of-the-doubt treatment by my bank because I had been a customer for so long. The profit projections I gave were believed, despite the sweat on my brow and the furtive movement of my feet. However, we live in an age where loyalty isn’t rewarded. For example, in the UK (where I am currently heading to on a plane), the longer I stay with a power utilities company, the worse my rate becomes. New customers receive better rates and deals than people who have been with the company for years. Building a bank history is important, but don’t be afraid to open another account if your current bank isn’t offering what you need.

Handy Hint – Online User Reviews Tell The Best Stories

You can probably trust the Bauer financial trust rating, but you cannot rely on it more than user reviews. User reviews are not infallible. They can be edited by websites if the target company pays the website, and marketing departments write their own reviews. Nevertheless, if there is a big problem with a bank, then angry forum/websites users will make it known. What the Bauer Rating thinks is a priority may not matter to you. Plus, rating complex things with a simple points system is ridiculous. Can you imagine if people adopted children based on a points rating system?

image of the word bank in lights

Conclusion – Where is The Big List of Features?

Choosing a bank isn’t like choosing a new Smartphone. You do not have to pick one with a 13mp camera over an 8mp camera, and you do not have to consider which has four cores and which has two. Choosing a bank is a personalized endeavor where what suits one person may not suit another. This article isn’t full of banking features or statistics because you don’t need them to make your choice. Whether one company has a sleeker app than another is not a deciding factor. How the bank fits into your life and what it can do for you is what matters.


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About The Author

Ash The Great

After a varied career in different industries from the hospitality industry to the financial consultancy industry, Ash now spends his days working as a professional writer.

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